Here And Gone

I haven’t had much to say about politics for a few days, and don’t feel the need tonight to add to the chorus commenting on the tax deal, and on how adroitly the President managed to offend both the Right and his own liberal base at his petulant news conference yesterday. All I’ll say is that I’m sure it was a painful decision for him to make, and I’m glad he made it. We’ll see what happens next.

No, this evening the discovery of an old Zippo lighter in a box exhumed from the basement has got me thinking about how strange it is that so many of the ubiquitous technologies of my youth are gone, and gone forever. Propeller-driven airliners. Zip-tops that pulled right off the can (and cans that had no zip-tops at all). Cigarette lighters in cars. 45-rpm singles, with those funny little adaptors for the hole in the middle. (Did those things have a name?) Cassette tapes, eight-track cartridges, and every other form of analog recording. Rotary (dial) phones. Rabbit ears. Punch cards. Mimeographs. Console TVs that looked like furniture. Huge mainframe computers. Telex. Slide rules, and slide projectors. Home movies. Polaroid cameras, and photographic film generally. Police cars with just one light on top.

What’s interesting is how much of this has to do with one advancement only, namely the processing of digitizable information.

What’s also interesting is how many things haven’t changed. We’re still driving around in cars powered by gasoline, and we’re still smashing them into each other. We still get colds, and we still die from cancer. We still throw Frisbees back and forth. We still have clocks with hands, and we still measure things in feet and inches, and miles and pints and pounds. We still have wooden pencils, and they still have little rubber erasers on them. We haven’t set foot on the Moon since I was a teenager. Doctors still use stethoscopes made of rubber tubing, and measure your blood pressure with a column of mercury. Aspirin is still the best thing for a headache. We still play cards, and Scrabble, and Monopoly, and chess. We’re still hitting baseballs with wooden bats, and catching them with leather gloves.

Maybe best of all, we still have books.

We still don’t really know what we are. We still get old and feeble and die, and it still scares the bejesus out of us.


  1. JK says

    I saw yesterday that condoms remain available. Remind me, what were the things for?

    Make good Christmas presents? The price seems right.

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink
  2. Condoms? Weren’t they a rite of passage for every pubescent boy who had to prove he was man enough to buy one at the local drugstore?

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    They’re great if you fill them up with mayonnaise and squirt it at people.

    In the other hand: a hand buzzer.

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Well Henry, I’m thinking Peter’s more right. I’m at Mom’s and she’s got TV.

    On the Rachel Ray show, I watched Ms. Ray write stuff on a cake.

    Mind, I don’t recall carrying the doggone thing in my billfold for… heck, I didn’t even take Home Ec.

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
  5. I seem to recall, JK, that was the first thing one put in one’s billfold, provided one actually used a billfold. But when I started using a billfold, I stopped using, er, what were we talking about?

    BTW, Peter, this may be of interest: I OPT-OUT OF CALIFORNIA

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  6. the one eyed man says

    Opt out of California? The things I like about living here – seeing the Bay a few times a day, the quality of light in the late afternoon, the fact that we have really great car washes – are beyond the sphere of politics.

    Although my mother raised me to believe that voting Republican is a crime against nature, I happily voted for Arnold, who is a darn fine governor. Regrettably, he couldn’t do much. The political system is so hopelessly and systemically screwed up that it there is only one way to fix it: splitting up the state. It’s just too big. Northern, Southern, and Central Valley / Sierras. That’s it.

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  7. Sounds like a plan. Perhaps the San Andreas Fault will make that East/West split happen (just kidding).

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  8. the one eyed man says

    I live three or four miles from the San Andreas Fault. I try to throw a quarter in whenever I go by, so I can be generous to a fault.

    Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  9. Wise; and funny, too.


    Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink
  10. Frederik Von smellsburg says

    Opt out of California… Written by none other than an Orange county real estate developer.

    Posted December 10, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

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